The DEA's request is in response to an administrative petition filed by a coalition of health and drug law reform organizations in October 2002 to reclassify marijuana so that doctors may legally prescribe it for medicinal purposes. Under federal law, the DEA is required to submit the rescheduling petition to HHS for review because it presents extensive evidence on marijuana's potential therapeutic use that has not been examined in any prior rescheduling proceeding.
'Rescheduling is a public policy approach to the medical marijuana issue,' said Jon Gettman, the petition's organizer. 'Opponents of medical marijuana have challenged advocates to provide a scientific rather than a political case for therapeutic use. [This] petition relies on extensive scientific and medical evidence. Now we challenge HHS to provide patients and doctors an opportunity to provide evidence of marijuana's accepted medical use as part of their formal review of all the available and relevant evidence.'
The petition seeks the removal of marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and its rescheduling to a lower classification that would recognize its potential medicinal use and expedite its development as a FDA-approved medication.
NORML filed a similar rescheduling petition with the DEA in 1972, but was not granted a federal hearing until 1986. In 1988, DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young ruled that marijuana did not meet the legal criteria of a Schedule I prohibited drug and should be reclassified. Then-DEA Administrator John Lawn rejected Young's determination, a decision the D.C. Court of Appeals eventually affirmed in 1994.